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College of Media student wins LaunchLab Network Idea Challenge

Jessica Mannering’s idea for customizable snowboard stomp pads won first place at the West Virginia University LaunchLab Network’s March Idea Challenge.

Mannering, a Strategic Communications senior in the WVU Reed College of Media, and her business partner, mechanical engineering major Michael Brinkley, successfully pitched and promoted their invention to five judges and a live audience during four rounds of competition.

“To be completely honest, we were shocked when we won,” said Mannering. “We just believed in our product and hoped that everyone else loved our idea as much as we do. Winning the competition was truly an indescribable feeling.”

Their business, Mountain Momma, is currently in the prototyping phase of making the customizable stomp pads. The idea came to them over Christmas break when Brinkley was getting ready for snowboarding season. He needed a new stomp pad for his board and after searching the internet, he and Mannering realized that there wasn’t much variety in the industry today.

They decided to address this gap in the market by putting the knowledge from their two majors together, blending Brinkley’s engineering capabilities with Mannering’s public relations and marketing expertise, and Mountain Momma was the result.

“Getting to present our innovative product idea next to so many talented entrepreneurs was definitely one of the most memorable experiences of our college careers,” explained Mannering. “The biggest takeaway from participating in this competition was the incredible networking opportunity that we had.”

Mannering and Brinkley received $1,750 toward their business and plan to use that money for the initial start-up costs, such as purchasing the materials to make the stomp pads. Their long-term goal is to expand the company to produce a variety of products including t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts and snowboards.

Judges for the Challenge included WVU alumni Jonathan Ohliger and Najee Goode, founders of VEEPIO; Cory Dennision, President of Vision Shared; Zach Sensabaugh, AVP of Business Banking for Huntington; and Steve Parks, executive director for Ritchie County Development Authority.

The LaunchLab Network is committed to empowering all students to solve problems and build upon innovative ideas. It offers one-on-one mentorship and prototype development facilities, as well as a variety of resources and connections to investors. LaunchLab Network is also part of the WVU IDEA Hub, a university-wide network of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship while also engaging West Virginia communities.